We don’t agree with everything Rowland Manthorpe has to say here for Wired about the death of “real” criticism at the hands of stupid algorithms, listicles and excessively fannish Twitter threads, but his frustrated experience of trying to find media outlets with something worth a damn to say about that new Childish Gambino video does exactly mirror ours. It’s the below passage we find most interesting and problematic, though — some of the most satisfaction we’ve found in the week since “This is America” dropped has come from diving into countless endless nuanced Twitter threads, where minds much smarter than ours try to wrestle, not uncritically, with the dense symbolism of the song and video. It’s the old Twitter, the one it could have been, where we work complex things out together in the public square. Is there a better way, wherever we’re headed, wherever Donald Glover might be leading us, to surface and engage with that discourse without just spewing out goddam listicles?
Fandoms do provide criticism, albeit of a different sort. For one thing, it’s more likely to be well-informed. George Orwell, a prodigious reviewer, admitted that, “The great majority of reviews give an inadequate or misleading account of the book that is dealt with”, an inevitable consequence of poorly-paid generalists dashing off pieces at the last minute. Fans are obsessives. They know their stuff (and they won’t even ask to be paid). They also have a more creative relationship with the creator, so criticism takes the form of remixes, or fan fiction, or animation, or cosplay. The critic has been replaced by the co-creator.
This system is undoubtedly more fun, diverse and creative than the one it has displaced. Even so, there are losses, most notably independence and impartiality. In this new model, there is only love, hate and aggressively nerdy detail. The idea that you should write from a perspective of Olympian ignorance feels absurdly old-fashioned.
Things you didn’t realise you were waiting for science to explain: why poets always speak in poet voice. (And it’s only now we realise there’s not yet a finger-snap emoji. What the hell, Unicode Emoji Subcommittee?)
For The New Republic, Emily Atkin dives into the surprisingly fascinating and murky story of mineral sourcing for healing crystals — did your supportive goddess stone come from an acid-spewing copper mine? Is that warm glow of wellness you’re radiating the sort you can only get from a good lump of conflict amethyst?
We made a little inside-baseball jab last week at the ridiculous $$ Felix Salmon has earned in previous jobs. If you wondered what we were on about, or just love stories about terribly run media companies (even if they make you worry for the future of sites you love), try this: Univision Is A Fucking Mess. The fact that this is written by staffers of some of its titles makes it all the more worthwhile, even if the biases are obvious (though they’re hardly hiding it with that headline).
Really good eco-engineering content from Citylab, if you’ll permit us – how Arctic cities and towns are scrambling to adapt to the suddenly-less-perma permafrost they were built on.
You’re a fan of email, so you’ll appreciate Christian Science Monitor figuring out how to build a solid paying audience of 10,000 for a daily email in just a year. What we learned from this article, as a list of about a tenth of that size, was that the secret to growth is to do lots of “straightforward and unsexy” work. Reader, we will not.
It’s shaping up to be a Cruel Summer full of GOOD Music releases, but Kanye is making the wait more painful than ever, driving hype with new levels of controversy. Much has been written about Kanye in the past couple of weeks, but Ta-Nahisi’s recent taste of fame gives him unique point of reflection. He struggles with Kanye as the Michael Jackson of our time—an icon at an historic turning point for American media and culture. But being of the now—a time of real-time social media—means that he’s not just a reflection of our collective moment, but of our fracturing and individual self-indulgence. Kanye is at his best when he’s producing musical kaleidoscopes with fragments of both past and future. Coates does the same here, blending personal and collective memories old and new with hopes for finding our way back together.
After listening to Hanif Abdurraqib on the LARB podcast, we might have to pick up his book They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us to get more music writing like this.
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